When aircraft technician AC Lucky Wijesuriya was deployed to the Middle East region in February, he had no idea he would receive an award for his performance on his trade training course.
"I received an email in mid-March from my executive Warrant Officer at Air Mobility Group in Richmond, congratulating me on winning the J.R. Bartram and R.A. Kee sword of honour," AC Wijesuriya said.
"I was surprised and honoured when I found out, as there were 280 students who graduated on my course in April last year."
The aircraft technician course takes a year to complete and the sword of honour is presented to the most outstanding trade trainee who completes one of the five different aircraft training courses, run at the RAAF School of Technical Training (RAAFSTT) at RAAF Base Wagga.
AC Wijesuriya is on his first deployment overseas working for the Air Mobility Task Group.
"I help maintain the engines, propellers, flight controls, landing gear and the pneumatic and hydraulic systems on our C-130J Hercules aircraft," he said.
"The best parts of my job are the travel and the people I work with; it's like a big family and the sense of achievement I get after finishing a job.
"Our mission here on Operation Accordion is important and it's great being able to help improve the lives of people in the Middle East region."
The award is an important step forward for AC Wijesuriya and his career.
"I plan to commission in the future to become an engineering officer," he said.
"Before I enlisted into my current job I'd originally applied to become an air force airfield engineering officer, but was offered three of the technical jobs instead."
AC Wijesuriya wanted to join the air force after coming to Australia from Sri Lanka in 2005.
"I moved from Colombo to Glenroy in Melbourne with my father to finish my high school education at Taylors College in the centre of Melbourne," he said.
"I then did my civil engineering degree at RMIT in Melbourne and decided to join the air force after working in a pub during and after finishing my degree."
"My family supported my move to Australia and throughout my education because they wanted me to live in a safe country that respects their citizens.
"This is something I regularly reflect on working for the Australian Defence Force."
His passion for aviation also has a family connection stretching back to his birth country.
"I also have two uncles in Sri Lanka who were in the air force there," he said.
"One was an airfield defence guard and the other an aircraft technician like me."
In 2012 AC Wijesuriya made a step closer to realising his dream to work on aircraft in Australia’s air force.
"I became an Australian citizen in 2012 and it's a great country to live in," he said.
"I'm extremely proud to be an Australian and to wear this uniform."